15 October 2019

Jerry Garcia in Ireland - On the track of the truth (UPDATE)

Yesterday the BIB reported on Cory Arnold's article on Jerry Garcia and the 5-string banjo, drawing attention to an account of a visit to Ireland. Thanks to Tim Rogers, both for his comment on the first BIB post and for this further clearing of the air:

I've been looking into Jerry's trip to Ireland and have tracked down a number of people who met him. As far as I know, it was in 1994. There are urban myths around this visit as you can imagine, so I am hunting the truthful accounts of people who met him and can tell their tales. I've tracked down photos and I'm working on a piece for publication. Deborah Koons is the only surviving member of the entourage for that trip and I haven't reached out to her. I haven't found any written account of the 'roadside gypsy' encounter yet. If anyone can direct me to this account, I'd be grateful.

In any case - I have tracked down at least one online author of an account of this trip... and he conceded that his account was entirely fictitious. I advise everyone to take these tales as they find them - but add a large pinch of salt.

Peace, love, and banjos,

Tim Rogers

Tim can be contacted by e-mail.
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UPDATE: Cory Arnold states plainly in his article that he is not a musician, and he consequently does not assess Garcia's banjo-playing or comment on his instruments. Fortunately this gap is filled by a four-part series, 'Jerry Garcia's musical roots: the banjo years', written in the late 1990s by Sandy Rothman, a former Blue Grass Boy and member of Garcia's Acoustic Band. This is well worth reading in any event; it also points out, for instance, that in the Hart Valley Drifters, the first band with which Garcia ever recorded, he played not banjo but guitar. If so, then in the first video in Arnold's article the banjo is being played by Brooks Adams Otis.

Moreover, a review in the September issue of
Bluegrass Unlimited takes a dim view of Jerry Garcia's banjo-playing. Sandy Rothman, conversely, has a high regard for it and says why in detail.

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